Monday, May 19, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 3: The Lay of the Land

January 30, 2008

Hi all:

We are working hard here at the vineyard. What struck me about this property when I first saw it, is that it had a perfect southwest exposure for maximum sunlight on a hillside ridge with a 10 degree slope. What was left of an old fruit orchard that had been on the land, was a few rotting stumps of apricots & other fruit trees here and there, but otherwise it has been in fallow, uncultivated, for 50+ years. The story we heard was that when the house was for sale and when the realtor showed it, the clients often never got out of the car, because the house was, shall we say "unsightly". Fortunately for us, there were no other buyers attracted to the potential of the property.

At any rate, back in October '07, before the rains, we took soil samples, about a cubic foot of soil from two locations at about a 10 inch depth. It had been a very hot & dry summer and the soil was dessicated, completely lacking of any moisture. We had the soil analyzed by Farmecology, an independent laboratory in Hopland, CA recommended by Mark Vernon of Ridge Winery. There is some concern that there might be heavy metals in the soil, like mercury, since there are known deposits of cinnabar, mercury sulfide (HgS) in the Santa Cruz Mountains. But given that this land has been used as a fruit tree orchard for a hundred years and we are 200 yards from an existing 30 year old Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard, the likelihood was that there would be nothing to out of the ordinary present.

In fact, our soils analysis came back "normal", that is to say there was nothing to worry about. Although the calcium level is unusually high, probably from amendments from the orchard period, but there is no need to amend the soil. The deer fencing is almost completed and we are starting to build a rail road tie stairway down to the vineyard. And then the plan is to "weed-wack" the new crop of grass in mid to late February, depending on when the rain let up. My backyard neighbor, Brian, has offered to loan me his tractor to rototill the vineyard. After the soil is ready, we will put in the trellising and drip lines to be ready for planting.
We will be sending out an e-Vite soon with all the particulars for the upcoming planting party!

From down in the (future) vineyard,
John Sphar

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